Photo by Jason Ryan
Hello! It’s been quite awhile since my last guest blog, and I’m excited to be back here. Brad and I were just talking about a shoot I did over the weekend, and he thought this may be a good place to share what i’ve been up to.
To start with a quick introduction, here’s my backstory…
From 2008 to 2013 I was Joe McNally’s 1st assistant. I spent the majority of that time on the road traveling hundreds of thousands of miles all over the world with him. It was an absolutely incredible life experience and has made a huge impact on my photography and life to this day. As of September 2013, I embarked full-time into the freelance photo world, and like most New York photographers, moved to Brooklyn.
Since I first picked up a camera at the age of 14, I’ve always pointed it at musicians, and I’m very happy to say that just about all of my work to this day is in the music/entertainment industries.
What started as lots of live concert shoots over the years has transitioned into primarily portraits, backstage candids, and in-(recording) studio reportage for commercial and editorial clients like Red Bull, The Associated Press, Rolling Stone and The New York Times.
Instead of giving you an overview of my work, I’ve decided to share with you a real world shoot that just happened this past Sunday for The Associated Press…
The freelance world, as we know, is entirely unpredictable. I can’t begin to say how many weeks I’ve had without a single shoot booked, and then within hours, I’ve gotten absolutely slammed and am struggling to keep my head on straight.
This past weekend was certainly that case, and as of 3PM on Friday, I had plans to attend a photo festival in Pennsylvania. At 3:30PM, I got an email from AP asking if I had an interest in shooting a quick group portrait shoot on Sunday morning.
The legendary producer, T Bone Burnett was given access to a box of Bob Dylan’s hand-written, unpublished lyrics from the time of the original “Basement Tapes” recordings, and he tasked himself with putting together an all-star lineup of musicians to write songs for these lyrics, and release what is now called “The New Basement Tapes” (released on November 10th). The band he put together is comprised of Elvis Costello, Marcus Mumford (Mumford & Sons), Taylor Goldsmith (Dawes), Rhiannon Giddens (Carolina Chocolate Drops), and Jim James (My Morning Jacket).
As a freelancer, when you get an email like this, no matter what your plans are (with very few exceptions), you very quickly write back and say “yes.” To have these five musicians in one room is amazing, and to have the opportunity to photograph them is an absolute honor that you can’t take lightly.
A shoot like this involves a lot of prep work to pull it off well. Researching the artists, the location (luckily, I had shot Roger Waters at the same venue last year), pushing to get there as early as possible, pushing to have the talent for as long as possible, planning out the setup, prepping gear, etc. At the very least, it was a full day’s work to piece this all together, and that’s before even getting to the shoot itself.
Posing five people well isn’t at all an easy thing to pull off, especially when it’s a crew like this. We got there with plenty of time to set up and test out some ideas, and here’s a very loose comp of what we had planned out. We had to plan for six people, as we were unsure until the last minute as to whether or not T Bone Burnett would be showing up for the shoot (he didn’t make it).
Thanks so much to Nick Rapaz and Erik Ellingson for all the help in pulling this off!
I knew I wanted Elvis to sit on the trunk, and had plans for the rest of them as well. I also knew that I had to be assertive as soon as they stepped on-set, or I’d never get what I needed.
As soon as they walked in, “Elvis, I’d like for you to sit right here on the trunk.” Elvis: “I’d really rather stand than sit.” Marcus: “Yea, we’d like to stand.” They walked right past the trunk, and stood behind it, right against the backdrop, which was clearly not going to work. We ended up moving it out, replacing it with an apple box, and then taking that out all together.
While I was shooting, I had thought about getting something usable, then bringing the trunk back in and asking them to humor me one more time. I thought that they may entertain the idea if I promised them it would look great, but I also know I could possibly get a flat out “no.” Also in the back of my mind was the fact that I had been outside a few minutes before the shoot and saw some beautiful light on the building. I really wanted to get them out there as well, and knew that if I pushed them too hard inside, I’d outright lose them and never get to photograph another setup with them.
Sure enough, we spent almost ten minutes inside (which is a lot of time with anyone notable), and I convinced them to come outside for a few quick photos.
After the 2+ hours of setup, tweaking and shooting the indoor photos, I actually much prefer the more candid feel of the photos shot outside— which were shot in under 90 seconds and lit by the sun. Go figure.
I’m happy to answer any questions you may have, and if you’d like to see more of what i’ve been up to, you can find me here:
Thanks so much for reading!